Etched in Stone

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A plaque proclaiming “Todd Academic Center” appeared on the sides of a building on the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary.  Bible classes regularly met in that beautiful, modern, three-story building.  In one class a professor was teaching on the subject of preaching.  Abruptly he stopped and asked, “Does anyone know who Todd was?” Everyone looked puzzled.  There was no Todd in our class and nobody knew anyone named Todd.  The prof went on: “Isn’t it funny that Mr. Todd donated millions of dollars to construct this nice educational building with his name on it and yet none of us know who he was or what he did?”  His words got me to thinking about monuments etched in stone.

A few months later I drove down Main Street in my hometown, Malvern, Arkansas, and noticed a row of old office and commercial buildings.  There, high up under the pitch of the roofs were names etched in stone.  One read, “Richardson 1927,” two more, “Leiper 1923,” “Harper 1927,” and the final one read, “Dunn 1926.”  Another city block of similar old buildings had just been demolished to build a new Walgreens.  However, I wondered what ever happened to Richardson, Leiper, Harper and Dunn.  They were surely long gone by then and the only visible evidence of the lives they lived were their names etched in stones.

In cemeteries across our land, you may see great stone monuments to people who lived, loved, died and left their marks…on gravestones.  For most of them, the date of birth, date of death and a short epitaph summing up their philosophy of life is all that remains.

Think about this: Where are you etching your name?  Fifty years from now will it make any difference that you lived on this earth?  Or better, can you etch your name somewhere that will really last?  Surely life is more valuable than to be remembered as a name on a dilapidated building, or carved in a grave headstone.

Where can you place your name so that it will last?

The Bible tells us of a place where your name can be recorded, forever, and never be removed.  Jesus told His disciples about such a place.  The gospel of Luke tells how seventy of Christ’s disciples had returned from a great ministry where many were saved and others were healed.  The disciples were exuberant because the very demons of Hell had been subject to their authority.  In the midst of their celebration, Jesus reminded them that there was something else more important; a thing immensely more valuable than their power over demons.  Jesus said, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  In this uncertain world, nothing is as comforting or as treasured as knowing your name is written in Heaven.  Repenting of sin, receiving Christ, and being saved, means your name is recorded in the very presence of God.  Now that is a memorial that will last!

In a similar vein, Paul encouraged the Philippian saints to help several women and other fellow laborers, “whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3). The book of life is where your name is written, when you receive eternal life, by trusting Christ.  The importance of having your name written in Heaven is immeasurable.  It is the difference between eternal life and death; between blessing and cursing; between Heaven and Hell.  God revealed to John that, “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

If you want to etch your name in something that will last, you need to call on the Lord and be saved so your name can be written in Heaven!  After receiving Christ, you need to invest yourself in the only other eternal thing that you can see, besides the Bible—People!  Early in Philippians Paul wrote: “I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me” (Philippians 1:7).  Those Philippian believers Paul had led to Christ, baptized, mentored and taught, were in Paul’s heart, and we know he was in theirs.

Paul, John, Peter, James, other apostles and millions of Christians since, have had their names written in Heaven, and then have lived with such influence that they left their marks indelibly in the hearts and lives of others.  Imagine the multiplied millions of men, women, boys and girls, who received Christ and were taught, trained, coached, encouraged and prompted to grow in Christ by other followers.  Mentors may leave a mark for eternity in the lives of followers.

So, where are you etching your name?  Will the only reminder of your sojourn in this life be on the side of a building, or on a granite slab that only a caretaker will see?  Or will it be eternally written in Heaven, and appear in the hearts of people you have influenced for the cause of Christ?

Even stone monuments won’t last forever.  But you can have your name recorded in a better place than a stone monument—a heavenly place that will never be demolished or destroyed.  Through Christ you can have your name written in Heaven, in the presence of Jesus, redeemed saints and holy angels!  Don’t settle for just having your name etched in stone.  Instead, build your life and place your influence in the Rock that never falters!

The Impact of Grace

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I drive slower and more safely today because of grace. Let me tell you why.

The Blatant Law Breaker

Pat and I were returning to Monticello from a funeral a couple of hours away. Having been gone all day, I was anxious to be home. It turns out I was too anxious. Topping a hill, I saw an Arkansas State Trooper on the side of the road. I had not been using the cruise control, and until that moment had paid no attention to my speed. When I saw the trooper, I looked at my speedometer, and knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, I passed him and a few minutes later, he turned on his blue flashing lights. I pulled to the side of the road and the officer came to my window. First, he asked if I knew how fast I was driving. I answered that I had not been paying attention. The young trooper informed me he had clocked my vehicle at 72 miles per hour and the posted speed limit was 55. In addition, he said that after I passed him, I was still driving 10 miles over the posted limit. The law officer considered that very disrespectful. Immediately I pleaded stupidity and apologized. He took my driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, and returned to his car, leaving me to sweat under the hot gaze and some choice words of my wife.

 The Human Grace Giver

After 10 minutes or so, the officer returned my driver’s license with a written warning. He lectured me on the dangers of speeding, having just come from measuring skid marks at a previous accident. He told me to slow down. I apologized again and promised to do better. As I drove away he followed me for 10 miles to be sure I meant what I said.

The Result of Grace

Grace, undeserved kindness, in any sphere, is amazing. I had blatantly violated the law by driving 17 miles over the posted limit, even passing a law enforcement officer in the process. Imagine that! Seventeen miles per hour over the limit, but I was given grace! The law officer’s attitude and words affected me deeply. So, I thought if he could be that gracious to me, a guilty law-breaker, at least I could obey the speed law. Grace is amazing, and it has an impact. I deserved judgment, but received mercy, and it affected me in a greater way than a ticket would have.

 The Primary Function of Grace

Grace, the unmerited favor and pardon of someone toward another, is incredible. It cannot be explained. It certainly is not deserved. From a divine perspective, the primary function of grace is to provide God’s forgiveness for lost sinners…”For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Since every person is a sinner and can never earn salvation, the only way God can pardon sin and save sinners is by means of grace, His unmerited favor. Salvation must be “by grace” because being saved is “not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Did you see that? Salvation cannot be earned; instead, it is “the GIFT of God” (emphasis mine). Grace is a free gift with no strings attached.

The Secondary Function of Grace

A secondary purpose of grace is to make an impact and alter the behavior of the recipient. The law officer’s grace to me had a powerful and unexpected result. It made me want to drive more safely—not because I had to—but because of his undeserved grace to me.

The Products of Grace

Following Paul’s statement that “by grace you have been saved through faith…it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8), he revealed two products of salvation by grace: it eliminates bragging and it elevates service.

Grace Eliminates Bragging

Salvation by grace eliminates bragging because it is “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:9). Imagine what Heaven would be like if people could earn, work or give enough to get there on their own merit. Don’t you hate being in the presence of braggarts? Imagine spending eternity with people who got to Heaven by their own virtues. That would not be Heaven!

Grace Elevates Service

Salvation by grace elevates service because saved people, “are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The very reason He created us, and saves us, is so that we may work for Him. We are saved to serve God, and Grace elevates that service, making it acceptable to God. Good works are not for salvation but because of salvation. We are saved without works of any kind, unto works of every kind!

The Divine Grace Giver

God gives grace that saves souls and changes lives. He pardons sin, forgives wrongs, and blots out transgressions by His grace—His undeserved kindness to all who place their faith in Christ. John Newton was right when he wrote: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see.” His grace is amazing!

Ambassadors for Christ

What do you think when you hear the word ambassador?  

Paul reminded the church members at Corinth that it was their duty to serve the Lord Jesus as His ambassadors in their world, during their day: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Hideo Kitahara, Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam and France, who also represented Japan in the United Nations, wrote about “The Makings of a Good Ambassador” in Global Portal for Diplomats: “Ambassadors…must certainly strive to promote their country’s national interests.” He then wrote, “A good ambassador must be a patriot.” The ambassador is all about his home nation’s best interests, and is loyal to it even though he lives apart from it in his host country.

In another article, “Functions of a Diplomatic Mission,” in the Global Portal for Diplomats, the writer recommended five duties of ambassadors. Ambassadors should: “Represent their home country in the host country. Protect the interests of the home country and its citizens in the host country. Negotiate with the government of the host country on behalf of the home country. Promote friendly relations between the host country and the home country. Develop commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between the host country and the home country.”

So, if God expects His children to serve as ambassadors, as Paul wrote, what does that mean to you? What is a Christian’s diplomatic mission to this foreign country in which we now live? The words of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus might best summarize every believer’s diplomatic mission as ambassadors in this world. Jesus told Paul it was his duty: “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:18). The duty of every Christian is first, to help people around them open their eyes to their responsibility to God. Secondly, your work is to seek to, “turn them from darkness to light…from the power of Satan unto God.” People without Christ are in spiritual darkness and unknowingly under the powerful influence of Satan. As a Christian, your job is to point them to the light. Thirdly, the benefits of people coming to Christ are that their sins will be forgiven, they will have an inheritance in Heaven, and through faith in Him, will be sanctified, or set apart, as God’s own possession. The question then is, are you an ambassador of Christ? If you belong to Him, you are an ambassador, so, please get about your diplomatic mission.

As ambassadors for Christ, it is also our privilege and duty to represent our Lord Jesus Christ, His kingdom and His gospel message in this foreign land. What can you do to improve your service as an ambassador of Jesus Christ in this world?

ONE: As Christ’s ambassador, remember where your loyalties lie. As a believer in Christ, you are in a host country, a foreign land, while your true citizenship is in Heaven. Paul wrote, “our citizenship is in heaven; from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Peter put it this way: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Though we are living here, our citizenship and loyalty are there, so we should live like citizens of Heaven on earth. The songwriter Albert Bromley spoke truth when he penned, “this world is not my home; I am just traveling through.”

TWO: As an ambassador of Christ in this world, you have diplomatic immunity because you are under the protection of your Sovereign. That is not to say you may do things illegal, for Jesus commanded His followers to obey the laws of the land; but it is to say you are under His protection and guidance. Every Christian ambassador would do well to remember Jesus’ words: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

THREE: As His ambassador, you represent your Sovereign in this foreign land. Your primary business is to carry His message, project His life-style, reflect His light and persuade citizens of your host country to believe in and follow Him. Communication does not happen in a vacuum, so in order to share His message, you must develop relationships with people of your host country (the unsaved world). Your redeeming message is: “Be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:20, 21).

FOUR: As an ambassador you are first accountable to your Sovereign for your life and service—not to your host country. Someday you will be called home to stand before the King and account for your actions on His behalf. Christian ambassadors should live in light of accountability to Him, always prepared to return home at the Master’s call.

Be a true Christian patriot! Share the saving gospel as you live by the laws of His kingdom in obedience to your only Sovereign! What a privilege! In Christ, you are an ambassador of the King of kings!

Only One Life

This is the post excerpt.

Only one life, ’twill soon be past

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

The little stanza printed above was part of a poem written by the 19th century English missionary, C. T. Studd. Early in life, he had been a famous British cricketer, but after receiving Christ, he surrendered to the foreign mission field. C. T. served the Lord in China, India and the Belgian Congo in central Africa where he died in 1931 at the age of 70. The theme of the little rhyme, Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, should motivate servants of Christ in every generation. As a Christian, what God expects you to do, serving Jesus, can only be done while you live this life. When this life is past, opportunities for that service are gone forever. Even our Lord was under a similar mandate. Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

The second part of this stanza is equally convicting—Only what’s done for Christ will last. Many of the things Christian people do in this life have no impact on eternity. The only things that will truly last and count in the sight of God are things done for Christ. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth….But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:19, 20). What Jesus meant was that service and sacrifice rendered for Him here, will result in reward and treasure received there. “There” is in Heaven, where He is, and where believers go when they leave this earthly life.

So what are you doing with your one life? What are you doing for Christ that will last? Is your life invested in people, ministry and service that affect eternity? Are you using the gifts and talents He gave you in God-honoring service? If not, time is wasting and you will be found wanting. Seek His face in repentance and faith, and then walk forward in works and service that glorify God. If saved, you are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). If you know the Lord by His saving grace, why not start serving Him? This is God’s will for every believer in Christ.

For many years, one of my best friends was Pastor Leslie Smith from Long Beach, California. Bro. Leslie planted the Discipleship Baptist Church in Oakland, California, and later pastored the Living Word Missionary Baptist Church in Long Beach, California. When we lived in Hayward, Leslie spent a lot of time at our house, and we loved him like one of our own. He was a gifted musician and singer. One song Pat and I always requested he play and sing was “Only What You Do for Christ Will Last,” written by Raymond Rasberry. Listen to the message of this great song:

You may build great cathedrals large or small.

You can build skyscrapers grand and tall.

You may conquer all the failures of the past.

But only what you do for Christ will last.

 

You may seek earthly power and fame.

The world might be impressed by your great name.

Soon the glories of this life will all be past.

But only what you do for Christ will last.

 

Remember only what you do for Christ will last.

Remember only what you do for Christ will last.

Only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;

Only what you do for Christ will last.

As we enter the closing days of 2017, this is the perfect time to review your life, your activities, goals, relationships and service to the Lord. If you have never repented of your sins and asked Jesus to save your soul, now is the time for that most important commitment. If you know Christ as your Savior, why not determine to serve Him as Lord of your life? Make your one life count for Christ in 2018, by seeking “first His kingdom and His righteousness?” (Matthew 6:33). Remember, only what you do for Christ will last.